Horsemanship is a sport full of tradition, old wives tales, and new-fangled ideas that make it difficult to navigate. Often, we do things just because we’ve been told to, and not because it makes any sense.

The list could go on and on, but these are the top five horsemanship practices that I’ve found are completely useless, if not harmful, to both horse and rider.

5. Hitting a horse that bites

“If your horse nips you, quickly strike him with an open palm.” -WikiHow

Do you ever see horses playing with each other? One bite leads to another and then they’re rearing at each other and striking. Whacking a horse after they nip at you is exactly what horses expect …it starts a playful conversation, at least that’s how they see it.

The best thing to do to prevent biting is to establish your personal space BEFORE the horse takes aim with his teeth. A reaction out of anger or annoyance only escalates the situation and tells your horse that “the game is on!”

4. Leading and mounting from one side

“It’s tradition. Everyone knows you walk a horse on the left side, and mount and dismount from the left side,” – NBC2

Not only is it really bad for the horse’s spine to mount only from one side, but it’s just plain dangerous to have a forbidden side. What if there’s an emergency and you have to dismount from the ‘wrong’ side? I’ve seen life-threatening situations arise when a horse unaccustomed to mounting from both sides was approached on the ‘wrong’ side.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather break with tradition than get injured or killed.

3. Patting

“I usually pat from the saddle, especially if we’re still in movement – but then, I have a verrrrry thick-skinned horse …” – Chronicle of the Horse Forum

A light pat is sometimes reassuring. It can also be a reminder. But what most people do to horses when they’re pleased is far from a light pat. Somehow, the horse being a large animal is an excuse for slapping and whacking. And what makes this practice even more messed up is the fact that humans think horses enjoy it.

Very few human beings (or any living thing) likes to be whacked on the neck, back, or cheek when they’ve done a good job. You’d never whack a dog or a child when you’re happy with them. What makes it okay to hit a horse to show gratitude? What’s more, if you hit them when you’re happy, how is the horse to distinguish when the smack means ‘move’ and when it’s just a ‘neutral’ smack? So the next time you’re happy and feel the impulse to hit something, rub instead. You’re definitely not doing any harm that way.

2. Cross-tying to groom

“…it is essential that you tie her up, so she cannot get away whilst you groom her.”- WikiHow

This ridiculous habit makes absolutely no sense. When’s the last time you’ve been belted into a spa chair, or tied onto a massage table? If you’re not voluntarily sitting down to get pampered, that’s called assault.

Most horses love grooming – so why on earth would we tie them up to give them something pleasurable? It’s just as easy to sling the lead rope over your arm, or leave it on the ground so the horse is free to enjoy their massage.

1. Kicking

“…I’d go for nudge with heels, a couple of harder but quick nudges, a good pony club kick then follow up with a sharp tap on the bum …” -Horse and Hound Forum

This has to be the stupidest horsemanship practice of all.

Nobody would ever think it’s okay to start kicking a dog, cat or child in the ribs. In fact, we’d expect any other animal to fight back or act hurt if they were kicked. Again, just because the horse is a large animal, people think it’s okay to motivate using this extreme method. But horses can feel it when a fly lands on them! I don’t know about you, but I think it’s rude to kick ANYONE in the ribs, even if that someone is being lazy. Maybe there are other motivating factors that could help de-escalate the situation …

Hopefully you’ve come away with some new ideas, even if it’s only that WikiHow has a lot of bad advice 😉

Do you ever find yourself doing any of these nonsensical practices? If so, what is your reasoning?


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